Author: Allie Jones

5 reasons to go wine tasting in Amador County in 2019

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San Francisco Chronicle By Chris Macias

Feb. 1, 2019 Updated: Feb. 5, 2019 10:52 a.m.

In the past year, this area about 50 miles east of Sacramento has become the home for new, ambitious vintners, nurtured the re-emergence of wildfire-affected wineries, and helped spur other developments that push the region’s reputation forward.

Here’s a taste of recent news from this inviting wine country:

Rising from the ashes

Helwig Winery suffered severe damage from an electrical fire in May 2017, leading to rebuilding efforts that lasted more than a year, until fall of 2018. But the winery didn’t just repair; it took the opportunity to expand its offerings, and debuted a larger commercial kitchen and a new private tasting room that overlooks the production facility. Next for this vintner of Zinfandel, Barbera and other local varietals: updates to its annual summer concert series, held in an amphitheater on the winery grounds in the warmer months. 11555 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth

Generations carry on at Sobon

The Sobon family has been a fixture of Amador’s wine industry for more than four decades, since the founding of Shenandoah Vineyards by Leon and Shirley Sobon in 1977. A new family project has emerged through their winemaker son, Paul, and granddaughter, Camille, who oversee Paul J. Wines. The winery’s lineup includes locally grown Barbera and Zinfandel, along with Vermentino and a late-harvest dessert wine made of black Muscat. While the bulk of the wines are produced at Shenandoah Vineyards, they can be sampled at a tasting room on Paul Sobon’s 5-acre home property. Paul J. Wines, 10775 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth

A (tasting) room with a view

The former Amador Foothill Winery was among the region’s definitive wine destinations, a purveyor of exceptionally balanced and flavorful Barbera, Sangiovese and other local favorites. Katie Quinn and Ben Zeitman, the former owners and winemakers, retired in 2014, but a new vintner has now established itself on the property. Iron Hub Winery and Vineyards, run by Lava Cap founding winemaker Tom Jones and family, opened a renovated tasting room in late 2017 that’s known for its spectacular views. Take a sip of Grenache or old vine Zinfandel at the bar while soaking in views of snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks. Iron Hub Winery, 12500 Steiner Road, Plymouth

Amador City knows how

All the cool kids know that Amador City — population approximately 200 — is the new hot spot of the region’s wine country. The Gold Rush town hosts an outdoor concert series in the summer, offers a holistic center to keep your chakras balanced, and boasts a cluster of tasting rooms among its historic buildings from mining eras long past. One of the newest entries to Amador City also offers some of the region’s most adventurous wines. The End of Nowhere opened in August with a focus on “natural” wines crafted with native yeast fermentations, no fining or filtering, and a hands-off approach to these locally grown Rhone varietals. End of Nowhere, 14204 Main St. Suite 3, Amador City

Cattle call

Rancho Victoria Vineyard is known as one of the region’s go-to spots for weddings, though the property served mostly as a cattle ranch for over a century. A new tasting room that debuted over the summer now combines its history with livestock and living the good life. The Scale House tasting room is in a building that once served as a weighing room for cattle. The cows are gone, replaced by plenty of wine, including Syrah, Barbera and Chardonnay for tasting, sourced primarily from Amador County and the greater Sierra foothills. 16920 Greilich Road, Plymouth

11.07.18 Sacramento Bee – Mike Dunne on Wine

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Dunne on Wine

Don’t forget the wine when planning year-end festivities By Mike Dunne

November 07, 2018 06:00 AM

Of all the year-end holiday gatherings, none is apt to be more diverse in food and the mix of celebrants than Thanksgiving. It’s often more than a gathering of family as the welcoming embrace widens to include colleagues from work or school, neighbors, friends.

Given that reach, this is no time to limit the choice of wine to one varietal or one style. To help hosts put out a few choices to surprise and delight such a variety of guests and to accommodate a broad assortment of dishes, here’s a suggested shopping list, based on the more impressive wines I’ve tasted this year and running largely to selections that can be found hereabouts. The list was drawn up principally with Thanksgiving in mind but also is fit for other seasonal parties:
For novelty

The host who likes to surprise his or her guests with wines not only polished but out of the ordinary has an increasingly rich selection from which to choose. One of the more startling lineups in wine I tasted this year came from an entirely new source to me, the cooperative cellar Cantina Kurtatsch, which draws grapes from high up in Italy’s Alto Adige, not far from Austria. Indeed, the finesse and focus of Austrian wines resonate in the Kurtatsch selections.

Corti Brothers stocks several of them, my favorite being the dry, lean and zesty Kurtatsch 2016 Sudtirol Alto Adige Graun Muller Thurgau ($24). Muller Thurgau is the grape, a cold-resistant cross between riesling and madeleine royal developed in Germany in 1882. Graun is the high-elevation district where the grapes were grown. The vivid, spicy and peachy notes of the wine show a bit more sass in the 2013 vintage of the same wine, also carried by Corti Brothers ($36).

California’s Lake County is recognized largely for cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and petite sirah, but keep an eye out for cabernet franc from the area, in particular the Steele Wines 2015 Lake County Cabernet Franc ($19). It’s a great buy, running to the cherry/berry side of the varietal more than the herbal, with a beckoning floral aroma, a compelling thread of licorice, and the kind of frisky acidity to make it versatile at the table.

As with pink wines, this was the year when wine-shop shelves and restaurant wine lists saw a surge in blended red wines, particularly atypical blends. A standout in that respect is the fresh, juicy and exceptionally complex Sean Minor 2014 North Coast Nicole Marie Blend ($22), based half on merlot but also including petite sirah, petit verdot and zinfandel from several appellations, including Mendocino and Lake counties.

Grenache is another offbeat black grape gaining traction on the American wine scene. Many are light and straight-forward, but the bright, perfumey and sweetly fruity Iron Hub 2014 Shenandoah Valley Estate Grenache ($25) stood out for its uncommon complexity. That could be for the insinuation of 9 percnt mourvedre that brought threads of earthiness and licorice to the chipper grenache. That the wine was aged for nearly two years in French and Hungarian oak barrels also helps explain its layering.

Wine critic and competition judge Mike Dunne’s selections are based solely on open and blind tastings, judging at competitions, and visits to wine regions. He can be reached at [email protected]